The Toast, The Coast, and Some Thoughts About Pigeons

So, I have a piece up at The Toast today. It’s called “My Only Carriage” and it’s an essay about a terrifying thing that happened (and happens, and will happen) to my body. It was terrifying to write and even more terrifying to send out, and I am grateful beyond grateful that it found this perfect home. You might have seen me shouting about this from the rooftops of like every social media platform I have ever even glanced at this morning, and if so, I’m sorry. I’m just terribly excited, as I’m a long-time The Toast fangirl and a Nicole S. Chung fangirl and a Mallory Ortberg fangirl (and, through some unknowable magical elegance of the universe, Ms. Ortberg happened to post this guide to menstruation, which is basically a summary of what I’ve wanted to say in almost everything else I’ve written, today as well).

In order to make up for the repeated rooftop shoutings, please accept this photograph of the unknowable magically elegant coincidence that happened this very evening in the very Kroger not very far from my very apartment today:

YES, THIS IS AN ELEGANTLY DRESSED WOMAN WITH ELEGANTLY FLOWING LOCKS USING A COINSTAR IN A MOMENT THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TODAY AND FOR REAL.

YES, THIS IS AN ELEGANTLY DRESSED WOMAN WITH ELEGANTLY FLOWING LOCKS USING A COINSTAR IN A MOMENT THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TODAY AND FOR REAL. PS I ALSO USED MANY FILTERS TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE I HAVE A FANCY OLD SCHOOL CAMERA. YOU ARE WELCOME FOR THIS.

In other writing news, you can now find “Gifted,” my flash piece that was (somehow, through forces I cannot yet understand but oh my God appreciate) the winner of the 2014 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. My infinite gratitude to Gulf Coast magazine, and to Amy Hempel, and to Donald Barthelme himself for showing me the beauty and strangeness of the small room that is the work of short prose.

I also have to thank my students, as this piece wouldn’t have happened without them. When I taught creative nonfiction, I often gave my students the assignment of creating assignments by asking them to lead the class in an exercise inspired by our readings. I found myself inspired by each and every one of their assignments, and each and every prompt led me to a place I wouldn’t normally travel with my own work. This piece was written in response to a prompt that called for the writer to write about something very difficult, something one usually never writes or talks about, in an unusual point of view. In “Gifted,” I decided to use first person plural to talk about sexual abuse. It’s such an important subject that is so seldom spoken about that I wanted to offer a few resources. There’s Tori Amos’ RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, and there’s also Darkness to Light’s “Stewards of Children,” a program developed by the Episcopalian church to detect and prevent sexual abuse in churches and in other communities like the one described in “Gifted.”

Finally, to take a sudden and strange left turn, I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts about carrier pigeons, as my mind has, for some strange reason, lately been taking a lot of strange left turns to think about carrier pigeons. It seems like such an odd thing, that we once used birds as a way to carry our thoughts. I’ve been thinking of the great effort that must have gone into the process, of the training and retraining, of how we had to get to know and understand a force so different from ourselves in order to get the message where it needed to go. What great care it took, and what an elegant and beautiful way to move language — proposals, acceptances, threats, refusals, announcements, denouncements, updates, important dates, commands and requests and acquisitions and triumphs and defeats and metaphors and all of the countless other heavy things that language can carry — over air, by wing, by the act of flight, which is itself a metaphor for what we as humans most long to do.

There’s no reason, I’ve been thinking, that all language can’t be like that, that we can’t take that kind of care with our words, our thoughts, our selves, our fellow human beings and their selves.

As the school year approaches, I’m taking that metaphor with me. And who knows what, in this year, will find wings?

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